A remake of "The Man in Half Moon Street" (1945) (qv.). Dr. Bonner plans to live forever through periodic gland transplants from younger, healthier human victims. Bonner looks about 40; he's really 104 years old. But people are starting to get suspicious, and he may not make 200. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
"The Man Who Could Cheat Death" is a well-put-together Hammer film from 1959 that boasts a dream cast of horror veterans, an intelligent script and high production values. Still, I can almost predict what the film's inevitable detractors will say: that it is overly talky and builds to a climax that is something of a letdown. And while these charges do have a patina of truth to them, the picture's sterling acting from its three leads more than makes up for any deficits. In the picture we meet Georges Bonnet, a doctor in the Paris of 1890, played by German actor Anton Diffring (who had so impressed me recently in his next starring role, in the following year's "Circus of Horrors"). Though seemingly blessed with all that life can offer--including a lucrative practice and the love of society lady Janine Dubois, played by the luscious Hazel Court--in truth, Bonnet is a desperate man. Unless he can coerce surgeon Pierre Gerard (the always dependable Christopher Lee) to operate on him, and take the place of his ailing friend, Dr. Weiss, the life-preserving serum that has been keeping him alive for--HOW long?!?!--will very shortly lose its mojo. In the role of the aged Dr. Weiss, Arnold Marle almost steals the show as Bonnet's patient but increasingly appalled voice of morality and reason, and his terrific thesping is more than adequately matched by those three horror icons. Yes, the film IS talky, but never dull, and Diffring brings a chilling intensity to his role and really makes us feel the angst, isolation and desperate strait of his unique situation. And yes, though the picture ends a tad abruptly and with something of a disappointment in the makeup department, most fans of restrained, levelheaded and intelligent British horror should, I feel, be left happily grinning. In all, another winner from the great House of Hammer.
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